This article is sponsored by WellSky®. In this Voices interview, Behavioral Health Business sits down with WellSky Behavioral Health Vice President of Business Development Tom Fahey to learn about how WellSky Behavioral Health technology supports interoperability across levels of care, how one startling mental health statistic reveals the challenges the industry faces and why the challenging events of 2020 put mental health professionals on the cutting edge of helping society.
Behavioral Health Business: You were with Health Care Software, the company that preceded WellSky, starting in 1996. What are the career lessons that you draw from most frequently in your current position?
Tom Fahey: As the CEO of Health Care Software, I was able to interact with clients and business partners to develop important relationships in behavioral health. During this time I partnered closely with our clients to build and design our platform’s user experience. That relationship-building and understanding of the industry is what I’m utilizing now with my position at WellSky.
In late 2019, Health Care Software became a part of WellSky. Tell us about the company and its work in behavioral health.
Fahey: WellSky has an extensive 40-year track record of helping health and community care businesses succeed, and is the largest provider of technology and services in the post-acute care space, which we define as any level of care or services provided outside the traditional hospital walls.
It’s WellSky’s mission to empower better health outcomes, while also improving operational efficiency. We help organizations reduce costs and meet the challenges of our rapidly changing health care environment. We have over 20,000 client organizations around the world, including leading health and human service organizations, some of the nation’s largest hospital systems, government agencies and, of course, behavioral health care organizations.
Along with behavioral health, the WellSky platform supports other levels of care. What are those levels of care, and why are those capabilities so important?
Fahey: WellSky supports a variety of care providers: home health, hospice, personal care, home infusion therapy, specialty pharmacy, rehabilitation, long-term care, blood banks — as well as specialty hospitals inclusive of long-termacute care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. We also partner with payers to help increase collaboration across health care stakeholders.
Given that breadth of services, we’re uniquely positioned as an organization to bridge the gaps across a variety of these settings. While we support a wide range of verticles, there is a depth of services and offerings that WellSky provides our clients to support their growth and scale as demand increases, payment models evolve, and patient volumes shift to lower-acuity and community-based settings of care.
As organizations look to expand, they also look for ways to become more efficient at scale. Interoperability and data analytics are important growth tools that become critical for organizations. This combination of capabilities enables all stakeholders to collaborate in a data-driven way.
We also recently acquired CarePort, the market leader in care coordination and patient care transitions. When I speak about interoperability, CarePort truly is a game-changer. They’ve perfected the model of care transitions that is so important these days.
Describe, then, the WellSky behavioral health platform. What benefits does it deliver for behavioral health, and how are those benefits achieved?
Fahey: We partnered with client organizations to develop a purpose-built behavioral health care platform to run all the critical functions that are required for an inpatient psychiatric hospital and their relevant outpatient levels of care. It all starts with a CRM, a customer relationship management module. These organizations are out in the communities, working with their referral partners, capturing information prior to someone being admitted.
Our solution then automates that admission process to flow into a fully paperless electronic health record, which includes a pharmacy information system, revenue cycle management tool, such as billing and collecting — which are all things that providers need to do to ensure that they’re getting paid for the services that they’re delivering. There are also back-office functions and financial functions that help organizations further streamline operations.
In short, the more you can do with a single platform, the more efficient it is and the less redundant activity you have.
The technology needs of behavioral health care are unique because it has specific requirements. Documentation is unique. It can be more narrative, and require specific functions within an electronic health record. We’ve been really focused with our clients to build the tools they need to enhance their unique workflows.
In terms of usability, we spent a tremendous amount of time on our user interface so that someone could sit down in front of our system, and it could be intuitive enough that they could pick it up. Certainly, training is critical, but it also has to be easy to use.
How does WellSky Behavioral Health differentiate itself from competitors?
Fahey: We really wanted to partner with our clients and develop the round peg for the round hole by focusing specifically on the features and functions and requirements of these types of organizations that were different than the traditional hospital space. For example, in an inpatient psychiatric setting, you need to put your eyes on the patient every 15 minutes. It’s called “rounding.” That’s unique to this setting. We’ve developed a mobile tool that allows users to walk through the facility, put their eyes on the patient and document the status of the patient.
It’s an acute care level stay, but it’s also a specialty level of care. It’s part of a broader continuum of care and services within the community. So interoperability is critical. Many times, our client organizations are developing joint-venture relationships with host hospital systems that are running [EHRs] Epic and Cerner. That level of interoperability is critical, and one area that we focus on, and where we’ve differentiated ourselves.
What’s your favorite story about a successful client engagement with the platform?
Fahey: One story is about a client organization known as SUN Behavioral Health. They have four inpatient psychiatric facilities, and they built all the facilities from the ground up. We started the partnership with them in their first facility in Houston, Texas. They opened facilities in Ohio and Kentucky, and their fourth facility was in Delaware.
They opened up Delaware, a brand-new facility with a paperless electronic health record from day one — and in behavioral health, there’s not many of them. They were able to take the workflows and components of the EHR and implement the additional features that the other facilities already had.
Now they have the four facilities running the complete WellSky platform. The partnership continues to this day, which is very rewarding as we partner to help them deliver care.
What do you see right now when you look at the behavioral health landscape?
Fahey: Just a general statistic, one in five people suffer some level of mental illness in the country. I think what was pretty staggering was a recent study from MHA (Mental Health in America) said that 57% of people who suffer from mental illness don’t receive any care and services. To me, there’s a tremendous opportunity to connect people with mental health care resources.
Obviously we talk about the stigma of mental health. We don’t want to talk about that, but I think now those walls are coming down. We’re not only in a pandemic, but also an economic downturn, regardless of what the stock market says. There’s suffering out there, and historically, you look at economic downturns, and you often see a corresponding increase of folks facing mental health challenges.
We’re seeing more funding to expand behavioral health services, specifically an investment in telemedicine. We saw this specifically with waivers that CMS announced in December. Expansion of different programs. Hospitals and organizations are investing in new footprints and new programs. It’s definitely needed, and we’re excited to be a part of it. We’ve really designed the system to facilitate our clients’ expansion as their organizations grow.
Where do you see the most hope in behavioral health in 2021? Since so much of everything that we’re feeling and reading is grim.
Fahey: Certainly, we can speak to the stigma of mental health. People are becoming more open to receiving care, due to the expansion of the care types and services available, and that’s something that gives us hope. In the future, we hope to see more people getting greater access to care overall.
This ties into our CarePort acquisition. Allowing transitions of care to now expand into behavioral health, and what that represents for our clients — that gives me hope. Everybody complains: you’re going to the doctor and say, “Why don’t you have the information from the hospital?” Well, because there’s a chasm on both sides of any level of care that you provide. CarePort created the bridge. Over time, we’re excited to continue building more bridges and connections between more care settings.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
WellSky helps behavioral health providers across hospital inpatient and outpatient settings and ambulatory outpatient and residential facilities deliver safer, more effective care with behavioral-specific functionality. To find out how, visit wellsky.com/behavioral-health-systems/
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].